Though it might be labeled "French," it was actually an army of mercenaries that could be hired by other countries. It's most celebrated battle came on April 30, 1863, and not because they won. 62 legionnaires fought against several hundred Mexican soldiers in the Battle of Camerone. At the end of the day, only five remained alive. Even though they were offered a chance to surrender by an impressed, almost saddened, foe, they refused, and those last five died too, still fighting with sticks and anything else they could get their hands on because they had long before run out of ammunition. That battle is still celebrated annually, a great source of pride for the Legion.
The slogan for the French Foreign Legion is, "The Legion is our country." That makes a lot of sense. None of them were French, at least on paper, and many other countries were represented. How much unity, how much loyalty to one another and the mission, would exist if all kept claiming their own separate nationality? No, you could not be a Legionnaire unless you were loyal to the Legion and the Legion only. This motto was repeated to the point that all would yell it out at the least provocation. "The Legion is our country!"
What country are you loyal to? Paul tells us, But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 3:20). Certainly that did not mean that his Roman citizenship meant nothing to him. He used it often to help him as he preached, to take advantage of the rights it gave him, not for his own selfish aims, but so he could continue to spread the word and accomplish the will of God. He was never one to claim his rights for any sort of personal agenda and, in fact, would give them up for the sake of the gospel whenever it was needed.
In the last several years, I have begun to wonder if we truly understand where we belong and to whom. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph 2:19). The context there is the unification of Jew and Gentile in the kingdom, a divide that came close to ruining that early institution when one group insisted that the other needed to become one of their own race or they were not welcome. Haven't we learned the lesson yet, after 2000 years? Or does Paul need to come teach us as he did them? Unity, Jesus prayed in the garden, would show the world who we are. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:20-21). He was praying for us that night--"those who will believe in me through their word"—so we could understand the need for unity, for solidarity, for loyalty to the kingdom of God above all others.
Learn it those early brothers and sisters did, and found the strength for their own Battle of Camerone in the Roman Coliseum and elsewhere through the centuries. If we can't learn the lesson, I fear we will surrender to the enemy sooner or later instead of resisting to death. If we won't preach the whole Truth from our pulpits out of fear, then where do we truly count our citizenship?
The French Foreign Legion understood this, and so they instituted their slogan. The Devil understands it too, and he will make you think your earthly country, indeed, your earthly existence, is the one that matters most. Don't listen to him. Heaven is our country. The Kingdom of God is our country. That is where our loyalty should lie, no matter what it costs.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb 11:13-16).